As any Cowboys fan knows by now, the defense is going to be missing some players in September due to suspensions. Right now, two players have confirmed bans and two more are facing likely penalties. How might these suspensions impact the Cowboys roster decisions between now and Week One?
Here is a quick rundown of what we know right now regarding these suspensions:
- David Irving, DL - Suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Will return Week 5.
- Damontre Moore, DE - Suspended two games for violating the substance-abuse policy. Will return Week 3.
- Nolan Carroll, CB - Facing a likely two-game ban for a DWI arrest in May.
- Damien Wilson, LB - Will almost surely be disciplined under the personal conduct policy for his arrest on assault charges earlier this month. Wilson's situation is by far the cloudiest and hard to predict.
Dallas will still have a 53-man roster even without these players. That means some of our current training camp participants should make the team for at least a few weeks. Who stands to benefit from this situation?
Clearly, the defensive line has taken the biggest hit with both Irving and Moore out. They still have eight guys to work with; DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper, Taco Charlton at defensive end, and then Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Cedric THornton, and Stephen Paea at tackle. That's certainly enough to get through a few games. Keep in mind that linebacker Kyle Wilber can also play some defensive end.
Dallas could use the roster spots on some extra depth and rotation pieces. Prospects Lenny Jones and Lewis Neal have had some positive reports at defensive end. There are also seventh-round picks Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell to consider at defensive tackle. The Cowboys could give any of these guys some extra weeks on the roster while waiting for Irving and Moore to come back.
However, with eight guys still in play and Wilber as an emergency option, Dallas could use those roster spots elsewhere. They don't have to stick to nine or ten defensive linemen as if satisfying a quota; the decisions should come down to talent and ability to contribute.
At cornerback, Nolan Carroll's expected absence will likely be filled by second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie. Fellow rookie Jourdan Lewis should also be in the mix, likely rotating in and perhaps even passing Awuzie before we get to Week One. The Cowboys shouldn't have to make any moves to cover themselves at the top of the CB depth chart.
Like with the defensive line, the effect of Carroll's suspension will be felt at the bottom of the roster. Rookie Marquez White will almost certainly make the team now, if he wasn't already. The Cowboys can at least postpone making a decision on him for a few weeks if they have any thoughts of trying to get him to the practice squad.
The major beneficiary could be Leon McFadden. The former third-round pick in 2013 played in nine games for Dallas last year due to injuries with Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. With Nolan Carroll gone, McFadden could stick around a player with league experience and some familiarity in the Cowboys system. It may not last beyond a couple of weeks, but it's better than nothing.
We may have already seen the major fallout of the Damien Wilson incident with the return of veteran Justin Durant. Dallas re-signed the 31-year-old linebacker just a few weeks after Wilson's arrest.
Durant is capable of playing all three positions and could start at Wilson's expected role of SAM linebacker. If someone else gets that job, Durant provides valuable depth anywhere you need him.
Given its severity and recency, Wilson's case and any NFL investigation may not be resolved by the start of the season. It's possible that Damien will be with the team in Week One but then wind up suspended sometime during the year. It could even drag out into next offseason and a suspension in 2018.
The timing of Durant's return may have been coincidental; giving a veteran some time off and bringing him back just before the start of camp. Perhaps they were already planning to make that call before Wilson's arrest. In that case, a roster spot may have opened up for someone we're not so familiar with. Prospect John Lotulelei has been the most talked-about of the unknown linebackers.
While I have almost zero concern at this point for Elliott actually getting suspended, we have to mention the signing of Ronnie Hillman and the potential impact of something happening with Zeke. Some have tried to suggest that the Hillman signing was due to the Cowboys' concerns about losing Elliott to start the year.
I don't see that at all. I think adding Hillman has more to do with the departure of Lucky Whitehead; a speed player who can run some of the plays as Lucky and also provide you a kick return option. It's also related to the release of injured RB Jahad Thomas, who was a similar type of player. Hillman can give them some of what Lance Dunbar used to, which neither Alfred Morris or Rod Smith can offer.
If anyone would benefit from an Elliott suspension it's probably Morris. I don't see him sticking around as a third RB behind Zeke and Darren McFadden, but he could be more valuable if he'd the number-two back for a while. You can justify his lack of special teams ability in that case.
Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.
Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
- DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
- DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
- G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
- G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
- DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable
The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.
Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.
The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.
Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.
- LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT
It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.
The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.
Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.
So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.
4 Best Candidates for Cowboys’ Next Offensive Coordinator
The big word around the Dallas Cowboys lately is about Jason Garrett and the future of the head coaching job. Some have speculated that either Quarterback Dak Prescott or Jason Garrett will get axed, and the other will stay.
Owner Jerry Jones was quoted on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas about his young quarterback, putting to bed at least half of the conflict.
"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s young and he’s going to get extended."
This shut the door on the idea of Prescott being replaced.
As far as Jason Garrett? Jerry Jones has been less than committed.
"I’m not in the business of backing anybody; the head coach, or offensive coordinator, I just don’t back them publicly." Jerry Jones said.
So it seems that Jason Garrett’s future is up in the air.
But what about offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? What’s held the Cowboys back this year has been the offense, and a lot of it can be contributed to their predictable play calling and inability to adapt to today’s game and its current players.
Whether or not Jason Garrett retains his job, Scott Linehan’s job doesn’t seem near as secure. His scheme doesn’t really mesh with Dak Prescott and how the offense could look. There’s only so many times you can run a three tight end set and not get furious.
Cowboys fans may want Garrett gone but they might have to settle for a new offensive coordinator instead.
The good news is that there are many options out there. Options that not only could work well with Dak Prescott, but could bring the Cowboys offense into the 2010s.
Jerry Jones once said how the Cowboys offense was like the LA Rams. If they are able to sign their Co-Offensive Coordinator, then they could be.
When Matt LaFleur left to become the Tennessee Titans OC, the job became a shared job between Waldron and Aaron Kromer. I wonder if Waldron would rather have the job all to himself?
What makes Waldron so appealing is he is also the Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Those are two areas where the Rams excel and where the Cowboys need help.
Teams are going to start copying the offensive juggernauts of the NFL and the Rams are definitely one of them. The Cowboys should do themselves a favor and get out in front before other teams beat them to it.
Cam Newton is having one of his best seasons. Not only is he an MVP candidate but he’s set to have career highs in completion percentage and QBR, as well as a career low in interceptions. Cam Newton is a very talented quarterback but some of this has to be attributed to his new Quarterback Coach, Scott Turner.
The son of Norv Turner, Scott has seemingly helped mold Cam into a more accurate passer without compromising who Cam Newton is as an athletic quarterback. That has Dak Prescott written all over it.
He's got NFL lineage and a new, scary Cam Newton to add to his resume. He may not have as impressive a track record as others on here but he looks like he could be a chip off the old block and get the Cowboys where they need to be going.
A popular head coach candidate, Lincoln Riley has shown his creativity and offensive innovation during his short time as Oklahoma’s head coach. It’s uncertain if he’ll get any real offers to be a head coach, but as an OC, he would be a serious grab.
Everyone has seen the work he’s done with Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. How he’s able to incorporate different formations to open up the pass game and have the run game seem unstoppable. Just imagine what he could do with the weapons he would have at his disposal in Dallas.
It's likely that Lincoln Riley is a hot commodity for a head coach position, especially in Cleveland where he could reunite with Baker Mayfield. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from trying to lure him to Dallas, though. Lincoln Riley could be the real missing piece that Dallas has been looking for.
Another product of Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former running backs coach has the experience under Andy Reid on not only how to run an offense but to use your weapons at your disposal to the fullest.
Maybe I’m over-hyping this man but when you see the work he helped put in with Pat Mahomes and how he uses those weapons around him, it makes me imagine what he can do for the Cowboy offense.
The team has no shortage of weapons and could benefit greatly from a guy like this.
If the Chiefs make it past their first playoff game, Bieniemy could become a more attractive name when it comes time for new head coaches. However, if Jerry Jones comes calling and the right offer is met, who’s to say?
If Kris Richard can be lured from Seattle to fix the Cowboys defense, Eric Bieniemy can be lured from Kansas City to fix the Cowboys offense.
Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta
The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.
As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.
The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.
It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.
Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.
Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.
If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.
The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.
In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.
Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.
It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.
The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.
Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Should Cowboys Pursue Former Raider Bruce Irvin?
Star Blog4 days ago
Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su’a-Filo at Left Guard?
Star Blog3 days ago
How Cowboys Could Regain a 2019 1st-Round Draft Pick
Player News1 week ago
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Next Day Rant: Dak Prescott Shows Big Flaws in Big Win
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Is Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones to be Trusted?
Star Blog5 days ago
Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time
Player News2 days ago
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room